An Overview of Navy Rear Admiral Career

Rear Admiral Speaking To Seabee
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A rear admiral in the United States Navy has two divisions, upper and lower, with the upper being the senior grade. Upper half rear admirals, as those in this rank are called, receive a higher rate of pay than their lower half counterparts, and wear two stars on their uniforms as opposed to the one star sported by lower half rear admirals. Each grade’s command flags also contain a corresponding number of stars on a blue background.

Rear admirals assist vice admirals, who are one rank above an upper half rear admiral. When referred to verbally, officers of both upper half and lower half ranks are addressed as rear admiral, although a distinction is made between the two ranks in written correspondence, with either LH or UH following the officer’s title.

Ranking System

Naval commissioned officers are paid commensurate with their rank based on a pay scale that runs from O-1 for the lowest-ranked individuals to O-10 for the highest. Upper half rear admirals are granted pay according to the O-8 standard, while lower half rear admirals are paid in accordance with the O-7 designation. Officers within the O-7 to O-10 pay range are considered “flag officers.” Fewer than 1 percent of career officers are promoted to flag rank, which in the Navy comprises the one-star rear admiral (lower half), the two-star rear admiral (upper half), the three-star vice admiral, and the four-star admiral.

The natural progression in rank is from lower half rear admiral to upper half, with the former having served at least a year at that rank to be eligible for promotion to the latter. The Navy's promotion system is vacancy-driven and, for flag officers, is a highly political process. Each year, in-service promotion planners map out the anticipated need for officers in each grade and then recommend officers to the president of the United States, who will choose from this list whenever a vacancy occurs due to another officer's promotion or retirement. The Senate must confirm this pick.

Per the O-8 pay scale, upper half rear admirals with fewer than two years of service earn $8,453 per month, while those with 20 years invested earn $11,319 per month and those with more than 38 years in service are paid $12,186 per month. That compares with $10,236 per month for lower half rear admirals with 20 years in service and $10,494 for lower half rear admirals with 38 years.


An officer who attains the rank of lower half rear admiral, but has not been selected or nominated for promotion to the upper half rank, must retire after five years at that rank or 30 years of active service, depending on which milestone comes later. An upper half rear admiral also must retire five years after being promoted to that rank or after 35 years of active duty, whichever is later. However, the Navy secretary can waive each of those structures.

The law also dictates that all naval flag officers retire by age 62, although this can be delayed until 64 if the Navy secretary or defense secretary grants an extension, and flag officers may even serve until age 66 at the president’s discretion.